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Obsidian Blue

Government drone by day and book lover and geek girl by night!

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Solid First Story in Series

Death by Dumpling: A Noodle Shop Mystery - Vivien Chien

Cute, but room for improvement is my overall comment on "Death by Dumpling."


I liked the main character, Lana Lee. Her family sounds great though she has a pain in the butt older sister. Her best friend Megan supports her no matter what and even helps out with trying to solve the crime in this one. That said, I needed more details. We hear about Lana's ex, but not his name, or what exactly was said to him when they break up. We get her memory of her quitting her job, and then that's it. I just felt like I needed more background on everyone and also her before jumping right into, we found a dead body and now need to solve the crime. Also I would thank the Book Gods if we didn't always have the main character falling for the lead detective on the case. Especially since Lana is a suspect in this first book. 


"Death by Dumpling" has 27 year old Lana Lee back in Ohio and working at her family's restaurant. Lana is dealing with the set-backs to losing her job and her boyfriend. Going back to work at her family's restaurant makes her feel like she's a loser. It doesn't help that she has a successful older sister. Between her mother nagging her about getting a boyfriend/married and her sister's snide remarks, Lana is just waiting until she can find another job. That is until someone the property owner of all of the stores in Asia Village is found dead. Mr. Feng recently had a lot of arguments with Lana's family's restaurant cook (Peter), a mysterious woman, and Kimmy (the daughter to another set of storefront owners). When the police find out that the dumplings that Peter cooked and Lana delivered to him were the culprit of Mr. Feng's death, she and Peter move up on the suspect list. Lana and her best friend Megan decide to investigate to prevent the police from charging Peter or her with murder. 


Lana feels a bit lacking in development to me at times. For example, I don't know what she went to school for at all. She supposedly loves books, but doesn't mention who her favorite author is. She dyes her hair different colors that gets a rise out of her mother, but doesn't really say why she likes to do that. She seems super passive and allows other characters to walk all over her (her mother, her sister, Ian, Mrs. Feng, etc.) Lana initially is also quite taken with the lead detective on the case. But then thinks he is a jerk when he won't discuss the case with her, but then finds herself attracted to him again. And he is beyond ridiculous with doing his whole I must take care of you every time he sees Lana and expressing mild jealously about her going out with another character. They have zero chemistry and no I don't care how many times Lana talks about his green eyes. I already said this in one of my updates, but I hate the cozies that always have the main character and the lead detective get together. It doesn't feel realistic and it just annoys me since every author sets it up as an antagonistic relationship at first. 


There's not a lot of development with characters besides Lana's mother and father and her roommate Megan. Hopefully everyone gets more developed as the series goes on. 


The setting of this book is Cleveland, Ohio, but there's not a lot of details about Cleveland to make me feel like the author has even been there. We hear about the Asia Village where all of the Chinese vendors/owners work and about Lana's apartment and that's about it. It was interesting to read about a separate side to Cleveland that many people may be unfamiliar with, but I wanted it to be integrated to the overall city. 


The ending was fine. I called the murderer early, but that was just because it was the only person that made sense in the context of what Lana was finding out.